The sum paid for Holiday Lettings has not been disclosed but one would assume that it generated very good value for the 2 co-founders of Holiday Lettings. And, since TripAdvisor is owned by the publicly quoted Expedia, one would also assume that it represents value for Expedia’s shareholders over the long term.
But question: Is this value for the customers of Holiday Lettings, the owners and renters that have made the site so successful until now?
The Advantages of Competition
For starters, someone that challenges the supremacy of HomeAway brings competition to the market place. And with competition, usually the consumer wins either through price or through an improved product. Price is unlikely to change because an annual listing fee on these sites is typically around $300 hundred dollars. If you achieve a few weeks rental then it’s a relatively cheap and hassle free service. So if not price then what?
Perhaps investment in product? Bearing in mind the millions which HomeAway is setting aside for it’s marketing programme, including the recent Super Bowl ad, then it’s likely TripAdvisor will put some money into Holiday Lettings, or it’s US based vacation rental business, Flipkey. But aside from investment and some competition for HomeAway it’s hard to see any other advantages, especially as TripAdvisor claims to be leaving Holiday Lettings to run independently.
The Downside of Growth
With boasts from HomeAway that they have 500,000 listings worldwide, and TripAdvisor surely having similar ambitions, we have to wonder whether these sites are becoming too large. With growth you usually risk losing sight of your customer who, in the end, controls the success of the product. And with growth some owners claim that their rental listing is lost among the masses of other rentals in their area.
Where Should the Investment Go?
What are vacation rentals all about? Surely they are now exactly what they were 10 years ago – a more personal vacation accommodation option than corporate hotel chains, with very good value and facilities. With the explosion of social media and the trend towards people wanting to engage with real people, we believe there is a perfect storm between social media, the internet and vacation rentals. If there is investment money available then let’s refine the product to bring real value to customers – give them the platform and tools to promote everything that’s great about vacation rentals. Let’s see the owner, let’s hear their knowledge of the local area, let’s see their videos, their Facebook pages – let’s bring personality back into vacation rental websites.